Thursday, July 7, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday - Carl Johan Anderson's Bible

Over two weekends last September, Donald and I went through my step-mother's basement finding many hidden treasures from my dad's family in the way of Bibles, books, furniture, photos, negatives, slides, china and silver. After months of airing out I am devoting some time every week to scanning and photographing these finds and sharing them here on Treasure Chest Thursday.

Carl Johan Anderson, Back row Center
ca 1887
I should really count them again, but I know that there were about a dozen Bibles and Prayer Books in that basement stash, all belonging to family. I've already shared photos of Bibles belonging to my paternal grandfather's parents, Arthur William and Ada Merritt Hobbs Matthews.

This week's Bible belonged to my paternal grandmother's father, Carl Johan Anderson. I do not know who gave him this Bible, but the inscription (which was translated for me by a member of the Swedish American Genealogy Group on Facebook) tells us that it was gifted to him "as a memory" of his First Communion on October 23, 1881; he was 15.

Two things struck me right away after seeing this translation. The first was that 15 seemed old for a first communion and the second was that the cost of a Bible seemed out of reach for a family having trouble putting food on the table, so I've kept digging.

Searching online I found this page in the Family Search wiki which explains that in the Swedish church a person takes their first communion after confirmation and that confirmation takes place between 14 and 17 years of age. This explains Carl being 15 at the time of his first communion.

According to his own account, which I am so fortunate was saved in an audio recording by his eldest son, Axel Heinrich Wilhelm Anderson, Carl grew up on a farm until the death of his father, Anders Svensson, when he was seven. Apparently unable to keep the farm after the death of her husband my 2nd great-grandmother, Anna Katerina MÃ¥nsdotter, was forced to work as a farm laborer, send her youngest daughter to work as a domestic (her three other children were grown) and to send Carl to live and work at a local glass factory where he suffered twelve hour days, miserable working and living conditions and physical abuse at the hands of his adult "supervisors". In the comments of my request for the translation I heard from someone who had recently toured this glass factory which now produces bottles for Absolut. Her group was told that the child workers were called "hyttsnock" or glass foundry snakes because they had to hide from inspectors since child labor was illegal.

By the time he was fifteen, Carl was apprenticed to one of his sister's husbands, Per Johan Bengtson, a shoemaker, but the life he describes is still one of grinding poverty.

This document that I found from a Google search, explains that confirmation was a rite of passage in Sweden. The achievement marked a person's transition into adulthood. Such a momentous occasion may easily have been commemorated with an expensive gift, even in financially difficult times. Perhaps the Bible came not from his mother but from a Godparent or an in-law or from the whole family. We will never know for sure, but certainly the history I have uncovered so far helps to explain how things may have happened.

There was one more thing that I found through the Swedish American Genealogy Group...a cousin! From the details of Carl's life and family another member of the group recognized Carl as a descendant of our mutual ancestor, my 3rd great-grandfather and Carl's paternal grandfather, Sven Gunnarsson, whose name I had never heard before! I've sent her some digital photos and she has shared her family trees and family group sheets with me. We will soon exchange Ancestry tree access as well. I have posted to that group about Carl before, but it was this last request that caught her eye. Research is certainly its own reward!

Next week, one more first communion Bible from Sweden.